Okay, don’t be intimidated. Before I made puttanesca, my only experience with anchovies was caesar dressing, and Ryan’s sporadic wit that our takeout night includes an extra topping of them. I’d heard that they’re small, salty and oily- and not being much of an adventurous cook for the better part of my 20’s, they never made it to me pantry, let alone into a weeknight family dinner.
About a year ago I became determined to make puttanesca when, one winter weeknight, I was short of family dinner ideas. Wanting to expand my go-to recipe repertoire, I started flipping through some older cookbooks and-voila! There was a delicious looking image of noodles, covered in a chunky, tomato sauce and dappled with capers and chili flakes. I quickly jotted down the ingredients for my next big grocery shop, and anchovies have been a pantry staple in my kitchen ever since.
The ability to make easy family dinners are an invaluable part of my life sometimes- regardless of whether it’s the weekend or a random weeknight. It’s a rare occasion that we’re not all at the table together, but big meals can also take a lot of time. Nourishing, delicious food doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, with a large family, family dinners are best kept simple. Simple and delicious. This puttanesca sauce is exactly that.
Weeknight Puttanesca Sauce
- 5 Cloves Garlic
- 1 Tbsp Capers
- 1 2 oz. Can Anchovy fillets
- 1/3 Cup Kalamata Olives (No pits)
- 1/2 tsp Chili flakes (less if you don't like spice)
- 1 28 oz Whole, peeled tomatoes
- 3-4 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 lb Linguini or your choice of pasta
- Chop your garlic cloves quite fine, and set aside.
- In a pot or a larger saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a pan on low heat.
- Add the garlic, chili flakes, and capers to the heated oil. It should sizzle lightly, or start to sizzle within a few minutes. Be sure to stir this every few minutes so that you don't burn the garlic or chili flakes.
- While these cook, roughly chop your olives, and then add them to the mix, still keeping everything on low heat and stirring every couple minutes.
- Finely chop your anchovy fillets. If you've never used anchovies before, don't be intimidated. Your food will not taste fishy- anchovies just add an extra (amazing!) boost of flavor to the sauce. Once your anchovies are chopped down quite small, add them to the pot and give everything a good stir.
- Pour the entire can of tomatoes into a food processor or blender, and pulse very quickly, for about a total of 5 seconds. You don't want the tomatoes to turn into puree- puttanesca should be more chunky and less saucy, with larger bits of tomato.
- Add the tomatoes into the pot, along with the reserved anchovy oil and an extra splash of olive oil. Season with (a little bit) of salt to taste, and a few good shakes of black pepper. Gently stir to incorporate everything, and then allow the sauce to simmer gently for about 10-15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, boil a pot of water on the stove for your choice of pasta. I prefer linguini or fettuccini, but you can use whatever you'd like. Once the water is boiling, cook until al dente, and strain. Toss gently with olive oil.
- Serve the pasta with a scoop of puttanesca on top, and garnish with parmesan and fresh parsley.
Is Pasta Puttanesca Spicy?
Traditionally, yes, pasta puttanesca is spicy, but you can make it however you’d like! If you’re not a big fan of spicy food, feel free to just add half of the amount of chili flakes in the recipe, or none at all! Pasta puttanesca tastes just as good (in my opinion) when it’s not as spicy.
Is my pasta puttanesca actually going to taste like anchovies? I don’t want to ruin our family dinner!
Nope. You don’t use a lot of anchovies in puttanesca to begin with, and what you do use is cut up very tiny. They add a significant punch of flavor and saltiness that make it taste so delicious. I was also a bit skeptical the first time I made pasta puttanesca and had to add anchovies, but it’s completely worth it!
Does it matter what kind of pasta I use?
It doesn’t really matter, but I do prefer to use some sort of longer, flat pasta like linguini or fettuccini because it seems to pair better with puttanesca sauce.
Any other family dinner ideas that go with pasta puttanesca?
I almost always serve pasta puttanesca as a main dish on it’s own, but we generally start with a salad. Usually something really light, like mixed greens and a few other vegetables with a balsamic dressing. A light pureed vegetable soup would also go really well, though! Sometimes I also serve garlic bread after or with the puttanesca.